Six impossible things

Kate and Cecy sequels, part II-Caroline’s view

I asked Caroline to do a guest post on her view of writing Kate and Cecy, particularly The Mislaid Magician. And this is what she says:

Pat said, “You’re going to kill me.”

That’s the way I remember my first encounter with THE MISLAID MAGICIAN. Pat Wrede and I were just finishing up with page proofs for THE GRAND TOUR — quite an undertaking, given that going over the changes involved conference calls with Pat, me, and Karrie Oswald, our Harcourt editor.

Pat and I were meeting for lunch. Pat’s warning accompanied a handful of pages. It was a letter to Kate from Cecy, and it became the opening of THE MISLAID MAGICIAN.

Pat rarely tells me things like “You’re going to kill me,” so I paid close attention as I read. It didn’t make me want to kill her. Far from it. It made me want to run home and write Kate’s reply to Cecy. So I did. And we were off.

As Pat has said in a previous post, the differences between our working styles made THE MISLAID MAGICIAN much more difficult to write than either of the other books. Although I thoroughly enjoyed tuning my internal receiver back to Radio Kate (and even more to Thomas, as we included letters from Thomas and James in this book), I had only a dim idea of what my half of the plot was going to be. I knew I wanted to include Drina. All else was mist.

My hat is off to Pat for coming so far out of her comfort zone to work with me so we could get the book done in a timely way.

We’d had a template for SORCERY AND CECELIA, and we had the map of Europe for THE GRAND TOUR. But we were completely on our own for THE MISLAID MAGICIAN. We had three advantages working for us, though.

The first advantage was returning to the epistolary style, writing letters back and forth between the characters. That was fun for us, and I think the reader can tell. The second advantage was the calendar. Pat constructed one when we were working on THE GRAND TOUR so that journeys would not conflict. For THE MISLAID MAGICIAN, she added moon phases and made it into a terrific tool for making sure the letters from four enthusiastic correspondents were posted at proper intervals and arrived no sooner than they ought to. The third and most vital advantage was our new editor, Kathy Dawson. She has a keen eye for detail and the instinct for the right word to a degree rare even among professional editors.

It’s been my privilege to work with Kathy Dawson again. She’s now at Dial Books. She edited MAGIC BELOW STAIRS, the middle-grade novel I have coming out from Dial in Summer 2010. The protagonist is Frederick, a servant boy in the household of Kate and Thomas. The book is set immediately after THE GRAND TOUR and the arrival of their first child plays a role in the plot. It is not epistolary, just a straight narrative, and it only concerns my characters, not Pat’s. But thanks to Pat’s gracious approval, it does take place in the same world as the Kate and Cecy books (my half of it anyway), and Thomas is an important character in the book. (Kate’s there too, I hasten to add.)

In the years since we finished THE MISLAID MAGICIAN, both Pat and I have been up to our eyebrows in independent projects. We have no plans to write another Kate and Cecy book. But I have to admit, while I was  writing this, I started wondering. Maybe someday I will hear Pat say, “You’re going to kill me.” If I ever do, I will pay close attention.

  1. Thanks for this Caroline! It’s great to get a view into the writing process and fascinating to see how a structure can inform the process of writing, whether it’s a series of letters, a map or a calendar. In the novel I’m about to start the first draft on, I’ve kind of stuck in time estimates for the outline, but I think I’m going to revisit that and see how I can turn the calendar into something that works with the plot in a more integrated fashion.

  2. Thank you Pat and Caroline for the delightful insights into your writing collaboration(s). And, may I add, yay! a new Stevermer book and yay! a new book in the K&C universe.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this! Thanks to Caroline Steverman for being willing to share. She is right, the enthusiasm shines through the Mislaid Magician and makes it so fun to read. 🙂

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